"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Fermentation Files (Wild Pickles)

I've tried lots of different methods of preserving food in the past four years. I've learned about canning (see last post) and dehydrating; about root cellaring and fermenting. Even the more mundane, mainstream methods - such as freezing - have involved a fair amount of learning. From picking out a chest freezer to buying a half steer, from learning how to wrap home butchered meat for the freezer to discovering how to freeze strawberries without turning them into mush, I found that even freezing isn't quite as straightforward as you might think.

I learned that there's really no reason to buy one of those silly five tray electric dehydrators - it only does what your oven or the dashboard of you car on a hot summer day can do, but slower and less efficiently. Drying is a wonderful way to preserve small, whole fruits like berries and tomatoes, but it's a major hassle to make fruit leather or something like that. I haven't tried jerky. I don't actually like jerky very much. Drying therefore has played a minor role in my food preservation arsenal thus far, but I'm glad to know how to do it right, in case I ever get a truly bumper crop of tomatoes, for example. Also, the kids love dried apples and pears to take to school in their lunches, and I have a pear tree that pops out pears like nobody's business. Dried pears - organic ones - cost somewhere in the vicinity of an arm and a leg, so if you have organic pears falling all over your backyard for free, it seems a shame not to dehydrate a few.

Due to an accident of fate (Mold Monster Update), I now have an excellent cold storage area - a closet with an uninsulated, exterior wall. That is where I keep my dry goods for long term storage (buckets of beans and rice, etc) and where, in season, I store winter squash, apples, and roots.

My relationship with wild fermentation is ongoing... I have had some successes and some failures, just like anything, I guess. My favorite type of wild fermentation is sourdough, and I have become, if I do say so myself, a hell of a breadmaker (Fun With Sourdough). Attempts at Kim Chee and sauerkraut have yielded mixed results (The Alchemy of Cabbage (A Little Knowledge Can Be a Good Thing)). And Brewing has been been an absolute, unmitigated failure
(New To Farm Life: Cider Season). I will try brewing again - I just can't let the process of making hard cider defeat me.

Next up in fermentation: kosher dills. I believe I may have mentioned once or twice that we love pickles around here. We do, we do indeed. And I always make a good quantity of pickles - bread and butter pickles, canned dills, pickled asparagus, dilly beans, hot peas, beets - all kinds of vinegar based pickles. I haven't tried crock-cured lacto-fermented kosher dills yet.

But they are, of course, the very best kind of pickle. When I was a child holding on to my mother's hand and peering into the deli case of a real Jewish deli in New York City, it was the pickles that caught my eye and what I would always plead for. They were enormous - great green zeppelins - and so wonderfully sour. A giant pickle was, for me, a better treat than a stick of candy.

Let's hope for the best - I had a terrible time finding enough pickling cukes this year, but finally I scored enough to make it worthwhile, about four pounds. At a garage sale a while ago, I found a marvelous three gallon glass lidded jar, and that's what I used for my pickle crock. A neighbor supplied the grape leaves - they are in there for their high tannin content, to keep the pickles crisp - and the onions and garlic. I'll let you know how they turn out in a week or so!

Fermented Foods: Fermented Pickle Recipe


Maven said...

I need to know how the pickles turn out, and if so, uh... I need a recipe:)